Here’s When Daimler May Launch Autonomous Class 8 Trucks

a blue 2024 freightliner ecascadia with a large load
Here’s When Daimler May Launch Autonomous TrucksDaimler Truck
  • Daimler Truck North America reveals electric Freightliner eCascadia Level 4 prototype in day cab configuration, previewing a truck slated to arrive in 2027.

  • The SAE Level 4 technology could allow trucks to run hub-to-hub routes without drivers.

  • Texas has been at the forefront of autonomous truck testing, with a number of developers experimenting with SAE Level 4 systems and infrastructure.

Robotaxis may get most of the attention these days when it comes to autonomous tech, but truck manufacturers are also racing to develop models that might not even need a driver behind the wheel.

Daimler Truck took the wraps off an electric Freightliner eCascadia autonomous technology demonstrator, with a sensor and computer hardware suite by Torc Robotics on board designed to permit SAE Level 4 autonomous driving along a predetermined route with no input from a human.


And a commercial launch may not be too far over the horizon.

The battery-electric eCascadia Class 8 truck itself has been in production since 2022, and has now joined more than 55 fleets in the US alone. With a range of up to 230 miles, courtesy of its Detroit ePowertrain, the truck maker is testing the day cab version with SAE Level 4 tech, with the computer hardware positioned in between the two cabin seats.

A sensor pod on the roof houses radar, lidar, and cameras, with four additional 12-volt batteries providing the power.

"While still a research and advanced engineering project, the autonomous vehicle has the potential to evolve into a modular, scalable platform that is propulsion agnostic for flexible use in different trucking applications," the truck maker noted.

For now this is a look into the future of autonomous use cases, as Daimler Truck describes it, but it's not lost on the freight industry that commercial testing is already under way in Texas.

2024 freightliner ecascadia autonomous prototype on road
Torc Robotics has designed a sensor pod for the day cab version of the electric truck with lidar, cameras, and radar sensors.Daimler Truck

The specific use case that Daimler has in mind are autonomous, hub-to-hub cargo runs between freight centers, mostly along highways, that could take place with or without a human on board. This certainly narrows down the list of likely routes even without taking charging into account, as Level 4 trucks would be charging at their home bases.

But the concept of daily runs between warehouses is the goal for now.

And it could materialize sooner than some industry observers expect, especially in states friendly to autonomous tech. Conversely, this also means commercial rollouts are likely to be confined to intra-state routes lasting just a few hours, unless two neighboring states permit Level 4 autonomy and business needs allow for a route to be opened between warehouses.

"Together with Torc, we are making significant progress towards introducing autonomous trucks in the US by 2027," said Joanna Buttler, Head of Global Autonomous Technology Group at Daimler Truck.

It was nearly a decade ago when Freightliner unveiled the Inspiration prototype with SAE Level 2 tech on board, similar to Tesla's Autopilot, permitting hands-off driving for limited periods of time.

At the time the truck maker appeared skeptical about even a small-scale rollout in a few given states, and has generally been proven right despite the variety of current SAE Level 4 testing in real-life conditions.

But now it sounds like Level 4 autonomy on a purely technical level, if not with a regulatory green light for it in every single state, could be around the corner.

Will driverless trucks see a meaningful rollout this decade, or will this process take much longer? Let us know in the comments below.